While we were in Portland, we had a chance to see our friend Dub in the band Conroy-Debrie. Dub has been playing guitar pretty much as long as we can remember, and we go back more than 40 years with him (we go back so far, we remember before he was called “Dub Debrie”). Conroy-Debrie consists of Dub on guitar and vocals, his wife Anne on vocals, guitar, and percussion, and Tony Conroy on bass and vocals. They make an impressive trio, each bringing something different to the mix. Tony’s bass playing is thoughtful and melodic, and his solos are concise and on the spot. He also sings the bass parts. Anne’s background as a drummer shows up in the way she fills in the spaces with a variety of percussion instruments … you don’t miss a drummer because she’s taking care of business (although they sometimes play with a drummer, when I expect they roar with just a bit more power). She’s got a voice made for blues-rock, and she works a torch song with the best of them. She’s also endearingly goofy on stage.
Meanwhile, there’s our longtime friend Dub, who is masterful at so many different styles that there’s no use listing them. Tony and Anne were effusive in their praise for the breadth of his musicianship. Of course, he makes it look easy. And his vocals are strong in fast songs, slow songs, and in between songs.
Dub isn’t in the best of health these days, and as we spent time together at his and Anne’s home, I confess I wondered how he would even make it to the gig. But once he hit the stage, nothing else mattered. He drew energy from the music and his band mates, and from the crowd as well. For four hours, he cranked it up, out, and every which way. It was good to see him singing a song like “Into the Mystic,” which he’s been singing since we were all teenagers … it was good seeing him sing his latest original songs.
I mean no disrespect to the venue where we saw them play … I have written before about the importance of small bars and clubs where musicians provide entertainment and, perhaps, even a little meaning to our lives. But it’s pretty clear that Conroy-Debrie is head and shoulders above the average bar band. I can only imagine what someone thinks who just happens to be in the bar when this “unknown” band starts playing. Holy shit, that guitarist shreds! Holy moly, that woman can sing! Holy everything else, that’s a fine and tasty bass player! As a biased observer (Anne’s mom) noted, these folks could play anywhere and win over a crowd. That they are friends of ours just made it sweeter.
And I helped carry in their equipment, giving me the chance to say “I’m with the band.” Thanks, guys.